Open mics, bah humbug

In case you’re wondering why I’m not writing much here in LJ, it’s because I’m having a hard time coming up with things to write that aren’t negative and whiny. But let’s do something negative and whiny. Let’s start with open mics.

I had such good spirits going into last night’s open mic, where I filled in for John as host. Sure, I never know what to expect when I’m subbing — often the place that was packed last week is now echo-y — but I wasn’t going to let that worry me. I would play a nice opening set and then competently, enthusiastically introduce the real stars, the people who signed up to play.

I’ll just shift to a bullet point list of what not to do if you want to keep your substitute host happy:

  • Don’t start taking charge like you’re going to set things up. The host is the sound guy. He’s in charge of setting things up. Don’t try setting up mics; you don’t know what’s broken.
  • And fer crying out loud, don’t set up your act before the open mic starts. The stage looked like a goddamn flea market up there last night from two acts that had to set up before hand, and their stuff had to be worked around all night. If your act is that complicated, then maybe an open mic where you have 10 to 15 minutes stage time TOTAL is not the best venue for you.
  • Speaking of broken stuff, it would be nice if, when the venue is supplying gear, that gear be working. Gear ages, too, and you can’t coast forever on the sound system purchased by the previous owner in the mid 90s, no matter how vaunted it was back then.
  • Buy something from the venue, like a coffee or tea or sandwich. That includes both you and your entourage. You want the place to stay open? If not, just keep treating it like it’s your parents’ basement. That’s never killed a venue before has it? Certainly not Gotham or Trixie’s.
  • I got there, and the list was full – ten names – yet the room was so empty you could hear crickets. C’mon, the show starts at 8, be there at 8!
  • … And stay for the acts who are after you. We’re ALL in it to be heard. Be there to hear people. The open mic isn’t YOUR gig. It’s a support group, and everyone wants support.
  • And consider not sitting at the very back of the venue. Do you want to know how many empty seats there were between the stage and the audience? DOZENS. Well, at least 2 dozen. Nothing like an intimate performance, huh?
  • As long as I’m pissing people off, that whole thing about the regulars taking the week off because the host takes the week off bugs the crap out of me. Maybe the regulars aren’t taking the week off because I’m there. And it’s not like there weren’t other people on the list who might not have gotten to play if all the regulars had shown up. But still. I go to particular open mics because I like the regulars. When I get to host, I like the idea of helping the regulars do what they do. Plus, every time I host and the place clears out, it makes me imagine how happy the venue owner must be because he doesn’t have to trouble himself with ringing up as many sales because Charlie’s hosting.
  • Don’t pounce on the host between acts. That’s the time when he’s busiest, trying to get the next act set up without rudely giving the previous act the bum’s rush. Wait a couple of minutes. When everything’s running smoothly, then the host has time for you, and will probably be very pleasant and appreciative of whatever you want to say.
  • Oh, and do try to be quiet and a little bit attentive. This should go without saying, but it’s America in the year 2009 and I know people don’t like to sit still and listen anymore; you all think it’s a bar with happy hour all the frickin’ time. I won’t go shush in your ear; I believe the performer should become good enough to make you listen. But you should give the performer a chance to wow you over.

So now you have an idea of why I felt like a bit deflated when I went home last night. John, I still appreciate you asking me to sub, please don’t feel apologetic in any way. I’m probably being over-the-top on a couple of things. I set myself up with expectations that were probably unrealistic, anyway. Some days are diamonds, some days are stones, and I’ve hosted on good nights and seen John struggle with the crap I listed above on bad ones.

I probably shouldn’t have posted this; I’ll be drummed out of the union, I suppose. There’s no guarantee, even, that venting will have made me feel better, but at least I hope for that.

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About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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